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Meyerson v. Carter

AUGUST 13, 1974.






APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. EDWARD J. EGAN, Judge, presiding. MR. JUSTICE DOWNING DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

The circuit court of Cook County held unconstitutional the "Taxicabs-bulletproof shields" statute (Ill. Rev. Stat, 1972 Supp., ch. 95 1/2, par. 12-605), *fn1 finding it to be so vague and indefinite that it is judicially unenforceable. Judgment was entered permanently enjoining enforcement of the statute. Defendants' appeal challenges the correctness of the ruling.

Approximately 2 1/2 years after the effective date of the statute, plaintiffs Nick Meyerson, an owner-operator of a taxicab operating pursuant to a license issued by the city of Chicago, and American United Cab Association, a taxicab affiliate acting on behalf of its affiliated members, i.e., independent taxicab owners and operators, filed their verified complaint for declaratory judgment and injunction.

The defendants-appellants are James Y. Carter (hereinafter Carter), Public Vehicle Licensing Commissioner, and James Conlisk, Commissioner of Police, of the city of Chicago. The State's Attorney of Cook County, joined as a defendant after the original complaint was filed, did not appeal. A temporary injunction issued and, after the subsequent bench trial, the trial court declared the statute to be unconstitutional.

Plaintiffs' complaint alleged that various members of American United, including plaintiff Meyerson, were notified by Carter on March 6, 1972, that, unless they complied with the statute within 30 days, their right to operate their cabs would be suspended. Plaintiffs proceeded to attack the validity of the statute alleging that its provisions violated the due process and equal protection clauses of both the United States and Illinois constitutions; that the statute constituted an invalid exercise of the police power by compelling a citizen to guard his own safety without benefiting the general public; that the bulletproof shield endangers the health, safety, and comfort of the cab operator as well as his passengers; that the statute draws an unreasonable classification; and that it is vague and unclear in that it fails to specify the standards with which the bulletproof shield must comply.

In their answer to the complaint, defendants admitted the facts giving rise to plaintiffs' action as stated by plaintiffs; denied that the statute was unconstitutional or its enforcement illegal; affirmatively stated that the statute is a valid exercise of the state's police power intended to regulate those persons who use public ways for private profit; denied plaintiffs' allegations that the shield endangers the operator and passengers stating further that such cannot properly support an allegation that a statute is unconstitutional; and denied the remainder of plaintiffs' allegations concerning an unreasonable classification and vagueness of the statutory language. Defendants also asserted that the plaintiffs were guilty of laches in seeking the temporary injunction.

So far as resolving the issues raised in this appeal, the significant testimony may be summarized as follows.

John H. Andrews, a mechanical engineer specializing in vehicles, testified on behalf of plaintiffs as an expert witness. He stated that, according to accepted standards within the glass industry, the transparent material used in various bulletproof shields examined on taxicabs operating in the city of Chicago would not be considered "bullet proof." Referring to the standards published by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Andrews described the four types of bullet-resistant glass defined by those standards, to wit:

"Type MPW, a nominal thickness of an inch and three-sixteenths which is ballistically resistant to medium powered small arms ammunition;

Type HP which is one and nine-sixteenths inch, which is ballistically resistant to high powered small arms ammunition;

Type SP which is an inch and three-quarters thick which is resistant to super powered small arms ammunition; and the fourth type,

Type RR which is two inches thick are [sic] ballistically resistant to high powered rifle ammunition."

Asked by the court whether the term "bullet proof" was synonymous with the term "bullet resistant," Andrews stated "It is the same generic type of definition." The court then inquired whether one could have type MP glass and still be considered to have bulletproof glass. This witness responded that such would be bullet resistant to small arms ammunition.

Andrews further testified that the three-quarter-inch and three-eighths-inch material presently used in the shields is not bullet resistant and that, should someone fire a bullet through material of that thickness, the bullet would not only come through the shield with a great deal of energy, but fragments of plastic would also be accelerated forward.

On cross-examination Andrews stated that he had examined approximately seven shields; that all materials have some bullet-resistant qualities, but that plastic is not as strong as glass when it comes to resisting the impact of a bullet. He further testified that the terms "bullet proof" and "bullet resistant" imply the same idea noting though that a piece of 2-inch steel is bullet proof since a bullet cannot pierce it; that, on the other hand, while a piece of glass or plastic will reduce the bullet's energy, the bullet can penetrate the substance.

Anthony Bottalla, president of the plaintiff American United Cab Association, testified that Carter's office had notified him by letter in March 1971 that the statute in question had been passed; that he then contacted the office of the governor of the State of Illinois, the enforcing unit of the city of Chicago, and Carter, requesting the specifications of the particular bulletproof shield which Carter requested them to install; that he received no specifications; and that, when he talked to Carter he asked him what is the requirement of the law, to which Carter replied: "The law is not specific to the dimension or the size or the thickness."

Defendants called two witnesses who testified concerning their experience with cabs equipped with a ...

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